George Zimmerman trial: Tri-State reacts to Zimmerman trial verdict
Casey Weldon, WCPO Digital
8:33 PM, Jul 14, 2013
3:34 AM, Jul 15, 2013
CINCINNATI - Reaction to the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial continues to ripple through communities across the United States.
A furious debate erupted across the country over racial profiling, self-defense and equal justice when a jury of six women cleared the 29-year-old neighborhood watch volunteer of all charges stemming from the Feb. 26, 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.
Although droves of protestors did not take to city streets in Cincinnati the way they did in Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, people across the Tri-State have not been shy about expressing their opinions about the case.
"It's a shame that a child can't walk home in his own neighborhood without being murdered," Ruth Walters posted on WCPO's Facebook wall.
Her opinion is echoed -- and disagreed with -- by people on the Internet and across the Tri-State.
9 On Your Side reporter Amy Wadas spoke with Reverend Damon Lynch III Sunday evening. Lynch invited the community to come to New Prospect Baptist Church in Over-the-Rhine a day after the verdict was read to discuss their feelings regarding the outcome of the trial.
Rev. Lynch said some people in his congregation believe justice was not served.
That reaction is shared by many people across the Tri-State, including Xavier senior Bria McNair.
"I was hurt by it because I didn't feel that justice was served," she said. "Even though it may have been in self-defense, he (Zimmerman) should have to accept some responsibility for what he did."
Randall Mitchell said he can relate to Martin's situation because he's been in his shoes.
"It actually hit home to me. Last year I was 17 years old, I used to walk to the corner store," said the sophomore at Xavier University.
Mitchell said the decision shows not just a lack of justice for one person but systemic injustices as well.
"I just feel like the verdict shows inequality in our justice system," he said.
McNair, Mitchell and others who feel justice was not served may have been at least temporarily appeased Sunday when officials from the Justice Department announced they are looking into whether federal prosecutors will file criminal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
But University of Cincinnati law student James Tafelski believes it's unfair for the public to judge what went on in the courtroom unless they were there every step of the trial.
"You see little bits and pieces and you have to speculate and have to think of the whole trial for those bits and pieces whereas the jury sees all the evidence so they have everything to consider," he said.
Many posters on Facebook agree with Tafelski. One such poster is Mike Nie.
Nie commented on a WCPO Facebook post that, "The jury members are the only ones who heard that evidence in the context of the trial and they are the only ones qualified to render a verdict."
Jess Capelle replied to the same post writing: "Guy (Zimmerman) got a fair trial. The prosecution had a weak case and lost. That's how the justice system works. If they had a stronger case it would've been the other way around. It is what it is."
Of course, many other posters feel Zimmerman was justified in his action and is being unfairly persecuted for protecting himself.
"If you were attacked in the dark of night not knowing if your attacker was armed or if you would live to see your children grow up would you just give up? NO!" commented Megan Roland Teeters. "You would fight for your LIFE! By any means just to get out alive!"
Monday morning attorneys have legal arguments for declaring innocence or guilt, others like Facebook poster Susannah Maynard believe the situation is much more cut and dry ("He killed someone. He deserves to be punished no matter what his supposed reason was.").
But for many it's difficult to look past the uncomfortable elephant in the (court)room: race.
Martin was an African-American. Zimmerman is a light-skinned Hispanic. Those were two of the only obvious facts in the case and also two of the most difficult to look past for some people.
"racism continues to run rapid in this country. white man confronts a black boy who was minding his own business. shoots him, and is found not guilty by a jury of white women!! something very wrong here," wrote Facebook user Bill Warf.
Kelly Ninke Bietenduvel posted that she feels some people feel as though siding with Zimmerman's story makes them a racist.
She wrote, "Heck I have discovered that if you don't agree that Zimmerman was wrong you are a racist!! We live in a world of frigging IDIOTS!!"
Poster John Ritchie said while this case has racial undertones, the facts told the tale in this case: "This nothing but a race issue as always! Hispanic vs. Black; white vs. Black it makes no difference. This isn't OJ (Simpson) (thank God). Give the jury some credit...there was a reasonable doubt."
Some people will spend the next few days or weeks focusing on the verdict, the reasoning behind the jurors' decision, the potential federal charges against Zimmerman and/or attempting to vindicate a man they believe acted in self-defense.
Others, though, say they the Zimmerman verdict is a call to action to help young people in the community.
Wadas spoke to David Weaver who said he isn't sure what to think about the jury's decision but feels the outcome inspired him to act.
"I immediately felt a sense of urgency, urgency to act," said the Mount Lookout resident who works with young people for a living.
He said he believes education, communication and promoting tolerance are keys to cutting down on violence and better understanding one another.
Those feelings were echoed in McNair's words, who says the community needs to find a way to make young people feel as though they're not being "picked on."
"We need to build our community stronger so our youth aren't scared and don't feel like they're being picked on," she said.
Weaver said words like McNair's and the ruling have instilled in him a "sense of urgency" to help young people make the right decisions and create an environment where something like the events in Sanford, Fla. won't happen again.
Weaver said he was filled with an "urgency to listen, urgency to try to help folks, to really begin to understand that we all play a role in trying to create a situation that doesn't allow for Trayvon to ever have to experience what he experienced," he said.
"All of us have a sense of responsibility in trying to create the world that we want to see."
What was reaction to the trial like in your community? Was there a call to action? Did lines of communication open up between you and your neighbors? Let us know in the comment section below.
If you do comment, please be respectful of others.
NOTE: All quotes in italics were taken from the WCPO Facebook page. All other quotes came from Amy Wadas' reports, which can be viewed in the media player above.